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Stomach Surgery- Guide to Stomach Surgery for Weight Loss and Cosmetic Surgery

Updated on October 4, 2009

The term stomach surgery can mean one of two things. First, stomach surgery describes bariatric, or weight loss, surgery procedures such as gastric bypass (stomach-stapling) and Lap Band surgery (stomach-banding). Secondly, it can describe a a stomach plastic surgery procedure that reduces the size and appearance of the abdominal area such as liposuction and abdominoplasty (tummy tuck). This article will discuss all aspects of stomach surgery and its benefits, risks, and costs.

Bariatric Surgery Procedures

Gastric bypass is a stomach stapling surgery that creates a small pouch in the stomach that can hold far less food.  There are two types of gastric bypass surgery which is Roux-en-Y and Biliopancreatic Diversion.  Roux-en-Y is the most commonly used procedure, which creates a pouch by stapling a large part of the stomach, causing the food to bypass some of the intestines where nutrients are absorbed. Sometimes a band is placed at the bottom of the pouch to help slow the emptying of the pouch.  This is known as vertical banded gastroplasty.

There are two ways to perform Roux-en-Y: laparascopic (a laparascope is a small camera) or open surgery.  Which method used depends on the size of the patient.  The laproscopic technique is less invasive and a very small incision is made, while open surgery cuts open the abdominal cavity to perform.  Both methods create a small stomach pouch by stapling the stomach together and attaching the pouch to the small intestine.

Biliopancreatic diversion removes large parts of the stomach, and changes the small intestine to redirect the pancreatic juices and bile to meet the food ingested.  This is a far more extensive and riskier process than the Roux-en-Y.  This procedure results in rapid weight loss, but it is riskier and less used.

Lap-band surgery is a less invasive stomach reduction surgery than gastric bypass.  It is a laparascopic procedure that place a silicone band at the top of the stomach.  The band can be adjusted as needed by inflation and deflation. Stomach banding surgery is a quicker procedure that requires less recovery time.           

Candidates for Bariatric Surgery

The National Institute of Health (NIH) established the criteria for bariatric surgery in the early 1990s, which has not changed.

You are a candidate for surgery if you have a Body Mass Index (BMI) between 35-39 with associated obesity related medical problems including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis
  • Sleep Apnea
  • Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome
  • High cholesterol
  • Psudotumor cerebri
  • Family history of early coronary heart disease

If you have a BMI of 40 or greater, than no other medical problems are required. Other possible indications for patients with BMI's between 35 and 40 include:

  • Obesity-induced physical problems interfering with lifestyle (back or joint pain)
  • Body size problem precluding or severely interfering with social life (employment, family function, and/or ambulation)
  • Are 20 to 60 years old (with some exceptions)
  • Have failed multiple attempts with supervised dietary, behavioral and medical therapy
  • Have a lifelong commitment to lifestyle changes and long-term follow-up care

Some people do not meet the NIH requirements or do not have the insurance benefit for stomach reduction surgery, but are still be able to pursue the procedure by paying for it themselves.

Weight Loss Stomach Surgery Complications

Gastric bypass surgery runs some risks including infection, blood clotting, bowel obstruction and intestinal or stomach leakage. To learn more about the complications of gastric bypass read this article:  Gastric Bypass Complications- Possible Complications of Gastric Bypass to be Aware of Before Going Under the Knife

Possible complications for stomach banding include:

  • Spontaneous deflation of the band due to leakage
  • Enlargment of the stomach pouch
  • Blockage of the stoma (stomach outlet)

Weight Loss Stomach Surgery Costs

The typical cost of a gastric-bypass operation is about $25,000 - depending on what post-operative support programs are provided.  The average cost is between $25,000 and $30,000, including anesthesia, operating room, and hospital stays.

The cost of Lap-Band surgery can range from about $17,000 to $30,000, depending on your location.

In the past, insurance companies did not cover these procedures, but now more are paying for all or part of the expenses if a medical necessity is established by your doctor and if you meet the NIH requirements.

Stomach Plastic Surgery Procedures

Stomach liposuction is the process of sucking out the fat and reshaping the contours of the abdomen.  Stomach liposuction is the most commonly performed liposuction among men and women.   Stomach liposuction is popular because fat in the abdominal area can be resistant to diet and exercise.

Liposuction can remove fat from the upper, lower, or entire abdominal region.  Tumescent stomach liposuction is the least invasive procedure that allows large areas to be treated. Tumescent stomach liposuction usually requires only a local anesthetic, greatly reducing side effects, risks and recovery.   Sometimes drainage can occur after the surgery, which will show the results sooner.  If drainage is slow, the individual may experience swelling and may have to wait a few months to see the actual results.

A tummy tuck is similar to liposuction in that it removes excess fat, but it also removes the excess skin in the abdominal area.  The surgery is performed by cutting a long incision across the abdomen and a second incision around the navel to separate it from the abdominal tissue.  The skin is then separated from the abdominal muscles.  The muscles are then tightened by being stitched into a new position.  After the repositioning and tightening of the abdominal muscles, excess skin is stretched and removed.  The remaining skin is then re-draped over the abdominal cavity and stitched into place. 

Cosmetic Stomach Surgery Complications

Liposuction's greatest risks are related to the tendency of some surgeons to do too much surgery on the same day. The three types of excessive surgery include 

  • excessive amounts of fat removed by liposuction on a single day
  • excessive liposuction of a number of body areas on the same day
  • excessive surgical trauma and prolonged exposure to general anesthesia

Other minor complications include allergic reactions to drugs, scarring, skin discoloration, nerve injury and numbness, and irregularities of the skin.

Tummy tuck procedures are riskier than liposuction and may have risks that include:

  • Reactions to anesthesia and/or medications
  • Aspiration pneumonia
  • Bleeding
  • Blood clotting
  • Delayed wound healing
  • Infection

Costs of Cosmetic Stomach Surgery

The cost of liposuction stomach surgery can range between $2500 to $3500.

Tummy tuck prices can range from $2000 to $10,000 depending on the procedure.

Since both procedures are considered cosmetic, very few insurance companies would cover the expenses unless a doctor can prove that it is medically necessary.

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